WORKS: Violin Sonata
PERFORMER: Philippe Graffin (violin); Pascal Devoyon (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67220
Like his contemporaries Wilhelm Furtwängler and Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter was a conductor who also composed. But in Walter’s case growing self-criticism eventually forced him to give up writing music. A pity – this Violin Sonata suggests that he had rather more talent as a composer than either Furtwängler or Klemperer, as well as a more appealing musical imagination. Brahms casts a big shadow, and there are echoes of César Franck and (as Martin Anderson suggests in his booklet note) possibly the Viennese Wunderkind Erich Wolfgang Korngold – Walter’s next-door neighbour at the time he wrote this Sonata. The outstanding movement is the central Andante serioso, where darkly reflective lyricism alternates with slow, Klezmer-inflected dance-music. Philippe Graffin and Pascal Devoyon give a cultivated, sweetly expressive performance – perhaps a little on the willowy side at times, but generally persuasive.
The playing is slightly more robust in Karl Goldmark’s Suite No. 1, an early, mid-19th-century essay in
neo-classicism – though it’s the finale, the least ‘archaic’ movement, which turns out to be the most naggingly memorable. Recordings are excellent, with clear, mellow tone, violin and piano convincingly balanced. Stephen Johnson